Fine and Gross Motor Skills of Preschoolers: What Parents Can Expect as Children Grow

As the parent of a preschooler, you will want to compare your child’s motor skills to the average developmental skill level to gauge their growth and development. Motor skills are the motions that occur as a result of a child’s brain, nervous system, and muscles working together. Although each child develops different skills at different rates, it’s helpful to get a basic idea of the milestones they should be reaching at each stage. Since motor skills are supported by many areas of the body, they are a helpful guide for parents to access their child’s development early on. It’s also a great way to tell if your child in naturally inclined towards any physical skills, so you can encourage them to develop their unique talents.

Here’s what you need to know about fine and gross motor skills for young children and the average ages these skills start to develop.  

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve using smaller muscles and movements, such as grasping small items or holding utensils. It’s important that small children develop fine motor skills, so the small muscles of their hands, fingers and toes can become strong and dexterous. These skills also include the small muscles of the tongue and lips necessary for language. As fine motor skills in preschoolers improve, young children are able to do simple tasks, such as feed themselves.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Creating things, using their hands, such as building towers using wooden or plastic blocks.
  • Scribbling with crayons.
  • Molding Playdough or clay into simple shapes.
  • Inserting shapes into matching holes, such as placing round pegs into round holes.
  • Preferring one hand over the other one, which can signify if a child is right or left handed.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Showing more independence in trying to dress or undress themselves.
  • Manipulating zippers, snaps and other garment fasteners.
  • Starting to use round-edged or blunt scissors.
  • Using spoons and forks.
  • Being able to use large crayons, markers and other types of thicker writing tools.
  • Twisting off lids from jars.
  • Opening and closing doors by turning door knobs and pulling handles.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Continued refinement of fine motor skills, such as being able to unbutton or button clothing without help.
  • Improved artistic abilities, such as drawing simple shapes and stick figures.
  • Drawing large letters.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills don’t require as much precision as fine motor skills do. Besides involving movement, gross motor skills entail arm and leg coordination, in addition to moving other large parts of the body, such as crawling, running and swimming.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Running, hopping and jumping, which typically occurs after toddlers start to walk smoother, faster, and with more confidence.
  • Throwing and catching large balls.
  • Using the feet for pushing themselves when maneuvering a toy car.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Improved upper body mobility, which enables children to catch and throw large balls.
  • Hitting a stationary ball from a tee.
  • The onset of stair climbing, although somewhat awkward—At this age, climbing stairs is usually done cautiously, in which both feet land on a step together before proceeding to the next step. Parents need to assist their kids in stair climbing to prevent falls. They should especially be on hand when their kids descend stairs
  • Hopping and jumping higher because of stronger leg muscles with some children being able to hop on a single foot.
  • Starting to ride a tricycle due to the improvement of overall body coordination.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Ascending and descending stairs without assistance.
  • Skipping.
  • Spinning the body when throwing a ball.
  • Riding tricycles or even bikes with better control at faster speeds.
  • Running faster and smoother.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Toddling, which is a movement, which pertains to a wide-legged posture that resembles robot-like motions, can be a clue that walking will soon begin.
  • Before most young children start kindergarten, they’re able to totally dress and undress themselves without assistance even though it can take a while.
  • As parents, you can help your preschoolers develop their fine motor skills at home, such as showing them how to cut and paste, use a zipper, clap their hands, build with blocks, do simple puzzles and manipulate crayons and pencils.
  • Once young children learn how to twist off lids, it’s critical that parents keep containers containing harmful substance out of reach.

Do you have a child who will soon be old enough for preschool? Maybe you’re a new mom. If so, it’s not too soon to start thinking about preschool and giving your son or daughter a quality early childhood education. Besides helping preschoolers with basic motor skills and developing their cognitive and social abilities, at Tessa International School we also introduce them to other cultures and languages, which can prepare them to be leaders of the 21st century. Please contact us and learn more about our exceptional preschool in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Extraordinary Benefits of Mandarin Language Learning for Children

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken native language in the world, with 960 million people using it as their first language. Despite China’s many regions, language groups, and dialects, Mandarin has been the lingua franca of China and Taiwan for more than 500 years.

As China has grown in recent decades to become a world power, the Mandarin language has increased in importance for international business and foreign relations. China is now the world’s fastest growing economy, and adults increasingly find that the ability to speak Mandarin would be a useful skill to have. Moreover, most governments and international businesses have a preference for multilingual employees.

However, Mandarin is a notoriously difficult language for Westerners to learn. Without an alphabet, there is no accurate count for the total number of written characters, but it is estimated to be around 60,000. And it is very difficult for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn to adapt and correctly mimic the tonal nature of the spoken words.

But this learning difficulty does not hold true for children. Young children are still developing their primary language skills, and their brains are highly receptive to learning and adaptation. The ideal time for a Westerner to learn Mandarin and achieve fluency is at a young age. Moreover, aside from the practical gains of knowing Mandarin as an adult, studies show that children benefit in many ways from learning Mandarin while they are young. Here are just a few:

Develop Accurate Hearing and Interpretation of Sounds

Learning tonal languages is easier for children, who are sensitive to the differences in sounds. The younger a child begins learning, the more accurately they can replicate these sounds. Furthermore, this familiarity with tones and sounds actually helps cultivate musical ability in children. A study at the University of California in San Diego found a strong correlation between fluency in a tonal language, and the development of perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is indicative of certain advanced cortical processes. So not only does Mandarin potentially benefit the brain, it potentially makes the child a better singer!

 

Better Interpretation of Symbols

Since Mandarin writing relies on thousands of character, learners of Mandarin Chinese have to read and interpret a vast number of visual symbols, activating more regions of the brain than English, which relies on a phonetic alphabet. Through learning Mandarin, children can become more adept at visual communication, more readily interpreting symbols in visual art and understanding nuances in symbolism and visual communication.

Improved Hand-Eye Coordination

While most Western languages are written in one direction, the act of writing Mandarin characters requires brush or pen strokes in multiple directions, with differentiating hand pressure. Writing in this way has been shown to improve fine motor skills and spatial recognition in children.

Stronger Math Skills

Yes, there is actually a scientific correlation between learning Mandarin and improved mathematical ability. Scientists theorize that because Mandarin representation of numbers is less abstract than Arabic numbers, and because the act of practicing handwriting requires repeated counting, young children gain greater familiarity with math and with numeric thinking. In learning Mandarin, the mathematical concepts are integral to the language fluency, and not a separate subject activating a different part of the brain.

Because Mandarin Chinese involves learning language, sounds, drawing, and math all at once, it activates more regions of the brain and improves cognitive development overall, even in adults. In fact, speakers of Mandarin use more of their brain more of the time, unlike English speakers who tend to alternate between left and right hemispheres. In theory, this more balanced brain could lead to greater overall creativity, enhanced problem-solving, and increased emotional intelligence.

With all these benefits for the mind and brain, Mandarin language learning for children is sure to be an asset for their whole life, regardless of their eventual interests or profession. Get them started today!

 

Building A Foundation with The International Baccalaureate

As our world continues to globalize, today’s students need exposure to international cultures and ideas. Those students who are fortunate enough to have access to an International Baccalaureate program receive not only an excellent education but also a solid foundation for the future.

For nearly fifty years, International Baccalaureate (IB) has offered programs for preschool and elementary, middle school and high school. Schools must apply for IB accreditation and demonstrate that they maintain IB’s rigorous academic standards and philosophy. (GreatSchools.org)

International Baccalaureate differs from Advanced Placement, also a respected and rigorous program. While AP courses carry the option of earning college credit through points on end-of-course exams, IB does not. However, IB begins the academic rigor as early as preschool and focuses on the social-emotional development of the student in addition to the academic development. IB offers an entire curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach, rather than a set of subjects taught in isolation to one another.

Developing the Whole Child

In an IB setting, schools focus on the development of the child as an individual. Beginning with the Primary Years Programme, students work in the core subjects to focus on several themes:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in time and place
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • Sharing the planet
  • How we organize ourselves

In these early years, IB programs utilize an inquiry-based approach to examine different issues present in today’s world, and incorporate the ideas in all areas of their learning, from math and science classes, to humanities and arts classes, to social studies, and physical education. Children learn by asking questions and working with one another to solve problems, facilitated by their teacher. (GreatSchools.org)

Moving to the Middle Years Programme, students continue making connections between their studies and real world events and issues. Students begin to develop analytical thought. IB believes that thoughtful, reflective questioning and analysis ought to have a place in all areas of a child’s life, rather than just in the classroom. Students develop the skills to become thoughtful people, and life-long learners, who can interact positively and empathetically with diverse groups.

The high school program, or the Diploma Programme, continues to develop the whole student as it seeks to expand the minds of advanced students who wish to thrive. Students tackle six subjects as well as the “theory of knowledge.” They develop independent projects and also engage in community service. Ultimately, the full IB program aims to develop citizens of the world who can lead and engage with others around the globe.

Academic Rigor

Don’t confuse the holistic, whole-child development approach with an easy-going atmosphere that skimps on academics. International Baccalaureate programs are time-consuming and demanding. Many schools with IB programs require that students demonstrate academic proficiency before being admitted. The program prepares them for competitive universities around the world.

Students develop their higher-level thinking skills in an IB program. They prepare for final evaluations of projects and take end-of-course examinations to showcase their analytical and writing skills in the academic arena and, impressively, put together and present presentations from a young age. Students who successfully complete International Baccalaureate programs are awarded IB certificates that can be separate from their institution’s general diploma. The certificate carries prestige and is respected by educational institutions around the US and the world. (ibo.org)

International Baccalaureate students excel by developing outstanding critical thinking skills in arenas where they are expected to also contribute on a community, social, and ethical level as well. They learn that these aspects of our humanity should be separated. Learning starts early and continues for a lifetime.

Please contact us if you have questions about the International Baccalaureate programs.

How Does Language Learning Affect Brain Development in Children?

Raising a child who is bilingual may seem like a daunting task. Maybe you learned a second language as an adult and you remember how difficult it was for you, or maybe you aren’t sure if a child is capable of picking up the intricacies of two separate languages. You may not realize that a young child’s brain is vastly different from an adult’s brain. Research tells us that, not only are children great at learning and retaining new languages, but learning multiple languages earlier in life actually has a greater overall cognitive effect than learning them as an adult, and not just with future language acquisition.

Languages Make the Brain More Adaptable

In “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” by Viorica Marian, Ph.D. and Anthony Shook, they discuss how children as young as seven months old benefit from being raised in a bilingual environment. This might seem shocking to many, as children haven’t yet acquired verbal language skills at that age. However, being exposed to multiple languages helps infants “better adjust to environmental changes,” and the benefits continue throughout their life as “the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain”. In short, learning multiple languages helps your brain learn how to effectively change gears, conform to new or unusual situations, and function well in new environments.  

shutterstock_120103930

Bilingualism Keeps the Brain Healthy in Old Age

Isn’t the brain amazing? Communicating in a new language is exciting, but there are so many additional benefits to language learning just for your brain. The benefits of bilingualism for brain development extend into old age as well. According to Marian and Shook, “bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline”. Learning a new language now can help you retain your brain power later in life, and the same applies to your child.

Bilingualism Can Help in Your Child’s Career

Early second language education will help your child both now and in the future. According to Time.com, bilingual job candidates can earn about 2% more than their monolingual counterparts. Knowing a second language also makes you a better candidate for business travel, which enables you to take better advantage of paid business trips. The perks of learning a second language extend into many other aspects of life.

How Can Parents Help Teach their Children Learn?

In addition to choosing an excellent school for your child to attend, you can also be a major driving force in your child’s language acquisition. Incorporating a second language at home, combined with the instruction your child receives at school, will greatly improve the speed of language acquisition. This article from PBS.org has some excellent suggestions for teaching your children at home, and you will benefit as well! Learning a second language with your child can be an enriching experience for you both!

shutterstock_370135250

Finding a school that incorporates a bilingual curriculum for young children is a challenge. Many schools don’t begin teaching a second language until high school, which is well into a child’s academic career, or, at a young age, they teach the language in insolation, for twenty or so minutes a day, which is not effective enough for language acquisition. At Tessa International School, we understand how important it is to provide a solid foundation for bilingualism early in life. This is why we teach 80% of the school day in a second language (Spanish, French or Mandarin) from preschool. Your child’s brain is at a point where it can easily begin to acquire a second language, and we want to see all of our students succeed in language, academics, and in their personal lives as they grow.

If you’re ready to help your child get on the path to being bilingual, please contact us for more information about our school, what we stand for, and how to enroll your child today.

Why Teaching Your Child a New Language Will Not Harm their English Skills

All parents want their children to thrive. Unfortunately, sometimes myths, rather than actual research, can lead our decisions as parents. A common piece of parenting folklore states that we might harm our children’s English language skills if we introduce the child to a new language during toddlerhood.

This is simply not true.

Busting A Myth

Access to different languages will allow children’s language skills to thrive. Children learn language structure without even knowing it, particularly at a young age, and can then apply it to their new language or languages.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has determined that the ability to speak or understand more than one language actually helps brain development. In a study monitoring brain activity in bilingual individuals, they found that bilingual individuals had more brain activity in different areas of their brains than monolingual individuals.

The bilingual child’s brain is always active, differentiating between the two languages and their expansive vocabulary, particularly if the languages are taught simultaneously or in the same environment. This high level of brain activity, studies have shown, actually changes an individual’s ability to absorb new information. Essentially: learning a second language rewires the brain permanently so it performs language tasks quickly and efficiently.

shutterstock_257955776

Researchers at Cornell University have learned that young children who learn a second language have better attention skills and can ignore distractions easier than monolingual children. In our modern world, with distractions merely inches away from us, the frustration of continuous loss of attention for students, parents, and teachers, and eventually employers, cannot be overstated. It may seem counterintuitive, but learning a new language does not overwhelm a child’s brain. It helps it.

Languages Teach Empathy

The University of Chicago conducted a different study and learned that being multilingual increased empathy in children, allowing them to see situations from others’ points of view. Researchers noted that throughout human history, exposure to languages has aided survival through exposure to new ideas. What we are seeing with this study is evolution in action.

shutterstock_8743624

Languages also have different words for experiences and emotions, so empathy is engaged in the learning process. Multilingual children learn that languages are vibrant and organic, empowering them to appreciate the world’s many cultures.

The Cornell study researchers point out that learning to read, speak, write, and understand languages is part of what makes us human. Picking up different languages is simply what we do best.

What Learning Sounds Like

When children, particularly toddlers, are learning more than one language at the same time, they may occasionally use two or three different languages in a sentence. And of course, “sentence” is a relative term as toddlers speak in fragments, getting distracted from their main point, punctuating with constant “umms”, as they practice communication. Adding a few languages to the mix may frustrate the parent, who simply wants to know what is going on. It’s all perfectly fine. The child’s brain is simply trying to organize their thoughts into a system – one that will straighten out over time.

The bottom line is that research clearly shows that first language proficiency does not decrease by learning a new language. There are many benefits to learning a second language, and a child’s mind can only expand and grow from exposure.

We firmly believe this and invite parents to contact us if they wish to learn more about our educational philosophies.

Summer Travel Plans…?

Tessa_international_school-1-min (1)
At Tessa International School, we make it our mission to prepare our students to be leaders of the 21st century and happy world citizens. During the summer months, traveling with your children can be a great way to introduce them to the diversity beyond our borders.

 

Traveling with your children can be a fun and very educational way to broaden their mindsets. When you travel with your children, you are allowing them to observe and experience new places, languages, foods, and cultures first-hand. At Tessa International School, we strongly believe in preparing our children to embrace the world with enthusiasm, confidence, and the strong will to make a difference. Traveling is one of the key ways to help develop their open-mindedness, curiosity, flexibility, independence and many other skills at an early age that are necessary for them to succeed in our highly interconnected and globalized world. Raising global children means sending them off into the world better prepared to tackle the issues of the 21st century.

Here are our top five reasons to travel with your kids:

  1. It is a great way to spend valuable time together as a family. There is no better way to show your child that you care than to spend time together. Travelling will certainly leave you with some remarkable photos and unforgettable memories!
  2. It broadens your child’s mindset and perspective of the world. It is amazing how quickly children catch on to subtle differences in their environment. Travelling presents a wonderful opportunity to spark their curiosity and imagination.
  3. Travel allows your child to develop their self-esteem, confidence and independence. Exposing your children to new and different cultures will undoubtedly teach them new things. It will also a great way to strengthen their character and discover who they are and where they come from.
  4. It teaches them to embrace diversity. Meeting new people, listening to foreign languages, and trying new foods are all great experiences that showcase the differences in our cultures. Celebrate the diversity!
  5. Before you know it, your child will become a seasoned traveler. You may be hesitant to take your little one along for the vacation, however, it is an excellent way to set expectations and let them grow accustomed to what is expected of them on travel days.

It’s never too early to start exploring the world with your little one. Visit our website to learn more about our world class curriculum and language immersion programs in either French or Spanish. At Tessa, we understand the importance of preparing our children to take on whatever challenges life throws at them and embrace global opportunities with enthusiasm and confidence. RSVP to join us at our next information session or call us to schedule an appointment at (201) 755-5585.

Safe travels and we look forward to meeting you and your family soon!